Why Sarah Seidelmann Left Medicine to Become a Shaman

Sarah Seidelmann is a 4th generation physician.  Yet something was calling her to make a change in her work.  She heeded the call and now she helps people re-discover their own FEEL GOOD and follow it.


Sherold:      Welcome, everyone, I’m super excited today to have someone that I just absolutely admire, Sarah Seidelmann. Hey, Sarah.

Sarah:         Hello, hello!

Sherold:      I’ve asked Sarah to talk to us because she is a fourth generation physician who has become a shamanic healer.  Sarah is a master life coach who was trained by the Martha Beck Institute.

Sarah is your husband a physician?

Sarah:         Yes, he is.

Sherold:   Sarah is an author. She’s published a couple of books. I’d actually love to have you share about those books. Her books explore why certain animals show up in our lives and what messages these animals might be trying to share with us in their teachings.

Sarah loves to inspire humans to connect with the message of the beasties so that we can live courageously and enthusiastically.

I asked Sarah here today because I have a healthcare background, I’m married to a physician, and I’m interested in Shamanic work. I’ve worked with Sarah to do a Shamanic session.

I want to share with you all a little bit more about this because I think it’s fascinating that you went from traditional medicine to what I would call sacred medicine.

Sarah:         Sacred medicine. That’s a good way to term it.  My pull to this began a long time ago when I was a medical student on the wards.

One of the first rotations I had, I had a very sick young mom who was essentially getting treated for metastatic breast cancer with a treatment that we no longer use that was fairly barbaric — a bone marrow transplant protocol that was eventually stopped because we realized it was harming more people than it was helping.

As I stood at her bedside, I remember just being struck with this idea that we were trying to help her in this mechanical way, which is really what a lot of our current medicine is — a mechanistic model. But I was unable to really address what was going on for her spiritually. I could feel that that was the major problem. She was really teetering on the edge of life and death.

She eventually did die and I remember just feeling so inadequate and so ill equipped to help her with the training I had and thinking… at the time I was like 24 years old and I thought, “Oh, my God. I either need to quit and go get tons of therapy or find out how to help people in this way that I can feel needs to be done.”

But, I was like, “I don’t see that. I don’t know how I’m supposed to do that.” Instead, I kind of took a left turn, and I ended up going into pathology.

Pathology is really very scientific; something that’s very tangible. It actually helped me to avoid dealing with patients and their suffering. Looking back, I think that was something that was just overwhelming to me.

It wasn’t until years later — I had four kids and had been in practice for a while. I started getting this feeling when I was sitting in — again — a breast cancer conference.

I think women, medicine and illness really is a big focus for me.

I remember just thinking, “Wow. We’re all over these details of the tumor and the chemo and the antibodies and all this stuff,” but when I would hear the nurses talk about the patients, they had a lot of things going on in their lives sometimes, too.

One patient, I remember, didn’t have any social support. Nobody to take her to chemo. Nobody even to check in on her and see how she was doing. I remember thinking, “Even if we give her all the medicine in the world…”

Or, “What if we could have intervened five, 10 years ago and circled the wagons around this person and really supported her? Would she still be sick now?” I mean, I just started to wonder. Not that medicine isn’t fantastic and we’ve done amazing, incredible things, but I personally started to get curious about how we create heath in people and I got less interested in the business of identifying disease. Of course, that’s what pathologists do and it’s a wonderful thing, and we need to be able to do that.

Over time, I finally just got so… felt so discombobulated by this desire and yet my job was completely not that. I eventually hired a coach and getting life coached really changed my life in a sense that I started to create room for exploring what I was interested in.

However, I wasn’t really clear on what that was. Often, I tell people if you’re getting called in some weird, new path, often it’s really just confusing. You feel discombobulated, you don’t know what’s going on.

Eventually, I took a sabbatical and during that time — which I’m such a fan of sabbaticals because it gives us time to really explore things without a huge, necessarily, a purpose.

I really started walking in the woods more and stumbled into a book by Ted Andrews called Animal Speak, which basically talked about how animals — wild animals in traditional Shamanic cultures — had messages for people and could help people.

I remember thinking, “That’s the strangest thing I’ve ever heard! That makes no sense, coming from a scientific background.” I’m like, “Nobody’s ever told me.”

I bought the book kind of on a whim and I started to read it. I started to just kind of play with the principles in it. Just noticing what animal is showing up for me when I was on a walk or somebody posted an animal to my Facebook wall randomly. I would just either look up the message in Ted’s book or ask myself what’s coming up for me when I hear about a jaguar right now.

I started really feeling better and thinking it helped me to navigate this place where I really didn’t know where I was going next.

Then I started sharing with others through some coach training I started doing, and I realized that it wasn’t just me. I thought maybe I’m just crazy. Mental illness runs pretty strong in my family, so that actually was a little cause for concern.

But I started realizing all my friends — high powered attorneys, physicians — they were all like, “Whoa! This is helping me too!” Just the delight and whimsy and the playfulness that was injected into all of our lives and thinking, “Wow. If that eagle flying over the car right now has a message…” It was helping to lift us up in these times when we were feeling confused or disempowered or just feeling supported by the universe.

I think all of us are longing for a deeper connection to something greater than us.

Life isn’t easy. It’s challenging to do the things we want to do and become the person that we want to become.

I realized maybe I wasn’t crazy because all these other intelligent, smart people who were capable and had normal jobs were really like, “This is powerful stuff.” That was my entrance into exploring Shamanism.

Eventually, I went on a Shamanic journey, which is something that if anybody is interested in doing that, they can go over to my website and get a free download to go and try it. I talk you through it and I drum for you.

Sarah:         I went on this Shamanic journey thinking I didn’t know what was going to happen. I met a bear. At the time, I remember thinking… when I came back from the journey thinking, “Did I just make that up? This is so crazy.” But the other part of me was going, “Wow. I felt this incredible love and acceptance.”

Like the kind of love and acceptance I think we all yearn for from our parents or from the people we wanted to get it from and maybe we didn’t get it. We’re human beings and none of us can love perfectly.

I remember feeling so loved and accepted and a little bit lighter/better when I returned from that and thinking, “Maybe I’m going to be okay, even though I don’t know what the hell is going on right now. I’m on this sabbatical. What’s going on with me? I’m listening to the messages of animals. This is nuts.”

That was the first time. I was curious, so I just kept going back. The more I went back to visit with this mother bear and ask her questions like, “What do I need to do to walk through this?” I just would return every time feeling more calm and better.

I wrote in my journal at one point that I feel like my brain is being rewired. I think that’s kind of the healing that can happen. I would also cry a lot. This mother bear would put her arms around me and I would just cry.

I think a lot of us have been through so many traumatic experiences in our life that we’ve suppressed, we’ve stuffed or we just had to smile and keep going because we still have got to go home and cook dinner. There isn’t a lot of time in our busy lives to process the pain. I think I was processing a lot of pain of things that had happened to me in medicine, things that I had had to do that I didn’t want to do.

I think we all have that, whether your career — whatever your trajectory of your life is. You’ve experienced pain because you’re here on Earth.

That’s where it started. Then I eventually went to a workshop and, eventually, after feeling more healed and whole myself and getting some Shamanic healings, I began to feel so good that I started offering to other people.

Shamanism essentially is that a person learns how to alter their consciousness through drumming or rattling — those are the most common ways. In other cultures, people sometimes use plant medicines and things like that. Drumming and rattling is safe, cheap and really easy; easy in the sense that it’s accessible.

The Shaman alters your consciousness to enter a spirit world where she can commune with loving and compassionate spirits that can help others.

I had one of my editors, somebody who was helping me design a book, she was like, “Yeah, I’ve got this thing,” and I asked, “Would you like me to go on a journey and ask the spirits to help you?” She was like, “Sure.”

Things happened that I couldn’t explain and that were very mysterious. People experienced feeling better or feeling insights and feeling encouraged to go on with their life. I was like, “There’s something to this!” Eventually, I just committed my whole life to it because I absolutely love it.

I love teaching people how to journey so they can use it as a tool for their own life to work with their own spirits.

Also, I do healing where — not everybody feels called to do that or feels strong enough to do that. Then I do Shamanic healing with those clients. The Shaman really was the person that — in traditional Shamanic culture — that you would go to if you had heartache, if you had fear, if you had physical illness too.

I do see a variety of clients. I tend to see more people with things that would be in the DSM category (the Diagnostic Guide): mental health things.

Sometimes people have had somebody that they’ve lost in their life and ever since that person — they lost that person or that person died — they don’t quite feel like themselves. They haven’t felt like themselves.

There’s a lot of different reasons a person might go see a Shamanic healer.

Sherold:   I had forgotten that I had a Shamanic journey back when I was doing an appreciative inquiry training. Diana Whitney co-founded Appreciative Inquiry and as part of one of my trainings with her she had us do a Shamanic journey.  The drumming does something with our brain state. It alters our theta brain waves.

Sarah:    It alters our brain waves so they go into what’s known as a theta brain wave state, which is really where we are when we’re dreaming. People describe it as a light trance. When I read about it before I ever did it I was like, “Oh, it sounds scary. You’re altering your consciousness.” But, really, it’s sort of like a very deep meditation.

Sherold:   You’re right. It’s like a visualization.

Sarah:     And it has a lot of health benefits. They’ve shown that, just like meditation, obviously, when our bodies just completely let go and we completely go into a deeply peaceful state, you can imagine that’s beneficial. But

Research has shown that our immunoglobulins spike up after we’ve gotten back from a journey — it benefits our immune system.

Sarah:         Michael Harner’s wife, Sandra Ingerman did a study showing that. The reason these tools have been around for 50,000 plus years is that they work.

The other thing I love about them is that they’re free. They’re something that we can teach person to person to person. Just like tapping. I think that’s become so revolutionary because it doesn’t take billions of dollars in pharmaceutical development research to figure out, “Wow. We can help trauma victims right now. We can teach them to teach a friend to teach another friend.” The power of that is immense.

By learning how to journey, we can empower ourselves and heal ourselves.

Then, go out in the world and there’s no limits to what we can do.

Sherold:      Tell me about your training. Did you travel around the world and study with the key people who are teaching Shamanic work?

Sarah:         What I did was, the first class I went to was a Foundation for Shamanic studies class.

Then I eventually went to a Foundation for Shamanic studies course out in California. I also did, in my exploration before I committed to that three year program, go to — Alberto Villoldo has a school called The Four Winds School. That’s based more on culturally based Shamanism from Peru. It’s beautiful too. I was really drawn to Foundation for Shamanic Studies, which is really what they call Core Shamanic Work.

What that means is that these practices, which is primarily journeying and some other practices… the essence of those practices from all over the globe is taken and shared with students, but without the cultural overlay. It’s like if you watched a film of somebody in South Africa doing a soul retrieval and somebody doing a soul retrieval in Brazil and somebody doing one in Norway.

There are Shamanic practices globally that come from those cultures, but they would all look differently. But, at its essence, it is the same. That person who lost part of their soul or their small power is having that brought back to them so that they can be effective in their life again.

Sherold:     Sometimes, for example, in the case of when my son had a life threatening illness, you said that a part of my soul left. It was probably unbearable, although I did a lot of work in Byron Katie’s Institute and was in one of the most challenging classes in the Institute at the time.  It allowed me to break through more and have more of an awakening experience during the most difficult — my worst fear — time of my life.

Is this what happens sometimes — when things become overwhelming and a part of our soul will leave and bringing that back brings our power back? How would you describe it?

Sarah:         Right. We come to this planet or when we are conceived, you might imagine our soul being this golden ball of light in its whole. Over time — it can happen in utero, it can happen at any more in our life — we have traumas. That’s one way we can lose it.

For example, a car accident would be a classic example. You get rear-ended out of nowhere and in that split second, in that moment, it’s so frightening and terrifying that part of your soul splits off. Nothing happens to it, it just remains inert, wherever that incident occurred.

The problem is that what happens is that after we’ve had several traumatic incidents — and some people have many — we lose so many soul parts that we begin to feel really disempowered. We can feel depressed and we can feel not who we really are anymore. You’ll hear people say things like, “I just don’t feel like myself anymore,” after these things happen.

The other way that we can lose soul parts is by giving it to somebody out of love. Sometimes that happens. Maybe a mother gives part of her soul to her adult child who is struggling with something. That really doesn’t function in that person, but out of confusion and out of love and overwhelming compassion, we give part of ourselves away.

Sometimes we give it away as part of a contract. We want to make this marriage work when we decide to get married, so we set aside part of ourselves. We lay down the wild part of us or the part of us that really wants to be… I’ve had this with women a couple of times where the part of us who is really dramatic and passionate. We think that this person won’t be pleased with that and that our partnership can’t work.

Anyway, the soul retrieval process — if that’s what the spirits are recommending for somebody — the spirits will show the soul parts. Usually it comes back symbolically. As a beautiful kind of flower or some kind of a tree or something in nature like a sunrise. The soul is so beautiful, that it’s just spectacular the way it will come back.

I find sometimes there’s so many magical correlations. Like I had a client recently who had a soul retrieval and the tree was, let’s just say, a red oak. That was the symbol of his soul part that had been lost and this was the part of him that believed in new beginnings. I can’t remember the details, but there was something really powerful. When the ceremony was over, he began to cry and he said he had just gotten a gift for his retirement, which was the planting of 100 red oak trees.

We both just had goosebumps all over. This was just one example of how the mystery works. I have no idea. What are the chances of him having 100 red oak trees and the spirits telling me to give him this red oak as symbol of his soul coming back? Day in and day out, I just go, “I don’t know.” It doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes I’ll say this is the soul part and people are sometimes confused. Like, “I don’t know what that means.” Sometimes we have to just be open to more will be revealed over time.

But, when things like that happen, it just makes me realize I’m in the right place and it’s what I’m meant to be doing. It’s so beautiful.

People report feelings — after that — more of themselves, more joyful, more exuberant. Sometimes just more empowered to stand up and say what they need to say to express themselves. It could be a lot of different things.

Sherold:      I think that’s great. I think if we embrace the big mystery… because our senses block us from knowing what we can’t see. I mean, if you look at Einstein’s work, it’s all there. I think this is really fascinating.

One thing I want to say is that in my own work, I see so many women who are afraid to use their voice. They’ve given their identity. Well, they haven’t given it; their identity has become their kids. Then they’re lost.

I did The Work on The Byron Katie the other night with a woman who just seemed lost because the kids were gone and the nest was empty. It was fascinating.

I think women, especially, could benefit from this. It’s being open to things we can’t see and knowing that there’s more power out there, spiritually, than we can put our hands on.

Sarah:        We all long to serve. I think when moms experience their kids moving out of the house, sometimes it’s sometimes that strong desire to be useful is suddenly not being fulfilled. We can’t be useful in the way that we used to, so we have to search for a new way to use that energy. I think that’s a beautiful search.

Sherold:      I think, ultimately, we all want to feel like we came down in this lifetime to help and use our gifts and talents. I see that. That’s what I work with.

I think you’re doing some powerful medicine in a different way and I find it so fascinating that you’ve left the traditional world of medicine and that you’re healing from a spiritual world.

Can you just tell us the names of the books?

Sarah:         What the Walrus Knows: An Eccentric’s Field Guide to Working with Beastie Energies is really about how to work with animal totems and how to get messages for yourself and how to discover who is your personal spirit animal or power animal. I like to call them Core Beasties because they can be things like mythological creatures like dragons and that kind of thing.

Born to Freak: A Salty Primer for Irrepressible Humans

Then the other one is called Born to Freak: a Salty Primer for Irrepressible Humans. That’s more funny stories from my life and principles that will really help you if you’re a person that has felt like your whole life you haven’t fit in. We’re all here, really, to bring balance to the world by expressing our talents and our uniqueness and our sometimes strangeness — or what we call strange. That’s a book to encourage you to do that.

Sherold:      That’s fabulous. Then you’re hoping to write your next one. I can’t wait to get my hands on that one, too, when that one gets done.

Thank you so much. This is such a fabulous journey in a whole new direction.

I think that we’re seeing more and more people who really want to connect with a deeper spiritual practice or something’s missing in their life — the meaning and the purpose.

Sarah:         It works!

Sherold:      It’s power! Power medicine. I thank you so much, and I’m so honored to talk with you to share your work.

Sarah:         Thank you, Sherold.

You can learn more about Sarah and her work at Follow Your Feel Good.

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